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WONDROUS OBLIVION – Howzat? A winner

Starring: Delroy Lindo, Sam Smith and Emily Woof
Director: Paul Morrison
Rated: PG

FILMS about goodness often have a difficult time drawing in an audience – which is a great pity.

When they use sport as a symbol of relationships and achievement, it depends on whether the audience knows and likes the sport, like running in Chariots of Fire, American football in Remember the Titans, and soccer in Bend it Like Beckham.

Wondrous Oblivion’s sport is cricket.

This is a film that audiences will like – the cricket will be a bonus for fans. It is set in a south London street in 1960. A Jewish family, the Wisemans, live there, just tolerated by the old-fashioned English neighbours.

David (Sam Smith in an engaging performance) goes to an upper class school where he is hopeless at cricket though he loves the game, collects cricket cards (which come to life and give him advice in a very pleasing way) and can do a fair commentary. Then his life changes.

West Indian neighbours move in next door. Neighbours gossip and criticise. Hate notes are pushed under the door.

The skinhead equivalent louts of those days glare and menace the Wisemans and the black Underground attendants – and this leads to some drastic racial prejudice.

However, the family next door loves cricket. Dennis (Delroy Lindo who grew up in London before going to the US) coaches his daughter Judy (a likeably lively performance from Leonie Elliot) and invites David in.

David blossoms but can still get caught up, unguardedly, in the bigotry. This is his personal and moral challenge.

Director Paul Morrison evokes the atmosphere of a time that is gone but raises issues that are still with us. The anti-Semitism focuses on Mr and Mrs Wiseman (Stanley Townsend and Emily Woof), the stressed and busy husband and the naive wife.

The criticism of increasing migration centres on the West Indians – whose cricketers like Sobers and Worral are characters in the plot and are feted, but who are the object of apprehension and harrassment.

By the way, David is something of a dreamer. A teacher says that he is lost in wondrous oblivion.

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